Gearing up for Hero Holiday 2014

Happening right now. Lots of rain. Dorka can’t wait until October.

This was the text message I received last Friday afternoon from Benjamin Cole Brown, Live Different’s Manager of Operations for Dominican Republic and Haiti, along with the photo above.

The photo is of Dorka and a neighbour’s daughter she was babysitting at the time. Dorka and her son live in one of the homes that WestJetters will be rebuilding during our upcoming WestJet Hero Holiday.

From October 21 to 30, 2014, 50 WestJetters will be in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, taking part in our fourth WestJet Hero Holiday. In collaboration with Canadian charity Live Different, with whom we recently entered a three year partnership, Hero Holiday is a 10-day humanitarian trip where WestJetters immerse themselves in the local community and build new homes for families living in extreme poverty.

Since our first Hero Holiday in April 2012, more than 150 WestJetters have volunteered their time and labour to build 15 homes for very deserving families living in Nuevo Renacer (formerly Aguas Negras).

Undoubtedly our most ambitious build yet, on our upcoming trip the team of 50 WestJetters will be building new homes for eight families. In total we will be building three detached homes, one duplex and one triplex.

Each of these eight families currently live in makeshift homes that are subject to regular flooding when it rains or the tides are high, as illustrated in Dorka’s photo. Mold, insect and rodent infestations, and water damage to their homes and belongings frequently occur as a result. Children’s school supplies and uniforms are often damaged or swept away and the kids are then unable to go to school until these items are replaced. Not an easy feat for an already struggling family.

Our team of WestJetters is going to change this.

In addition to fundraising to cover the cost of working alongside locally hired contractors to build the eight new homes, our 50 WestJetter volunteers are also raising extra funds that will go toward purchasing items from local vendors that will get our families set up in their new homes. They are also raising funds for an exciting legacy project for the community.

On past WestJet Hero Holiday trips, WestJetter participants have raised funds above and beyond their individual goals. This extra money has been used to build community basketball courts, purchase medical equipment and underwrite the salary for a part-time clinic doctor for a year.

This year, we’ve challenged our WestJetter participants to raise extra funds to purchase land for a new club for boys and girls. The existing club in the Nuevo Renacer community is operating out of a rented facility. Purchasing and gifting the land to the club will ensure a more sustainable future and re-direct valuable dollars toward offering more programs and services to the children and youth of the community.

Club for boys and girls
The total fundraising goal is $20,000. To demonstrate our commitment and belief in investing in this community in the most sustainable way possible, WestJet will match up to $10,000 for every dollar of extra funds raised by our participants. These funds will go toward locally purchasing items for our families’ new homes and for acquiring the land for a new club for boys and girls of Nuevo Renacer.

Our team has accepted this challenge with vigour already raising more than $6,800 in additional funds.

Ambitious? Absolutely. Doable? Most definitely. Worthwhile? Without question.

For Dorka, our other seven families and the Nuevo Renacer community, we can’t wait until October either.